In response to the rapid growth in Asian vehicle production, automotive safety systems specialist Autoliv has begun construction of a seatbelt weaving plant in Mysore near Bangalore. It will be India's first plant for this component.

Currently, most seatbelt webbing is imported from Autoliv's plant in China. However, demand in Asia has grown so sharply during the last few years that more webbing capacity is urg ently needed in the region.

The Mysore webbing plant will have capacity to produce 100m metres of webbing once the floor space of 10,000 sq m is fully utilised. In the initial phase, the plant will have 65 employees, rising to 180 once all the automated weaving looms are installed. The cost of the initial phase is about US$10m, including purchase of the 24,000 sq m site.

Seatbelt webbing is a complex weave because it has to have high strength combined with a certain elongation, without causing a 'rubber-band' effect. At the same time, the webbing should have low friction and prevent twisting to provide user comfort and safety.

The new plant will increase Autoliv's global seatbelt webbing weaving capacity 20% to about 500m metres (roughly 12 circumnavigations of the earth). Autoliv has five other webbing plants (Netherlands, Romania, Canada, China and Brazil) and estimates its existing plants account for over 40% of annual global output.

Customers include Autoliv's own seatbelt system assembly plants and those of rival belt manufacturers.

Indian light vehicle production doubled during the past five years (to 2.4m last year from 1.2m in 2004) and is expected to double again during the current fiveyear period to 5m by 2014.